UD mechanical engineering students have developed an adaptive rowing device, and for their innovative work have been invited to participate in the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University.

Future global leaders

Engineering students to share adaptive rowing device at Clinton Global Initiative


9:37 a.m., Jan. 24, 2014--Participating in sports can be a challenge without the right equipment, particularly for individuals with physical disabilities.

This idea inspired University of Delaware senior mechanical engineering major Sarah Masters to develop an adaptive rowing device to allow those with quadriplegia, paraplegia, hemiplegia, multiple sclerosis and paresis to operate a crew boat.

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Masters worked on the project with teammates Robert Bryant, also a mechanical engineering major, and Matthew Imm and Molly Wessel, both biomedical engineering majors. 

Known officially as QuadCrew, the team planned, designed and developed the adaptive technology as part of their capstone senior design course last fall under the advisement of Jenni Buckley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. 

“Current adaptive rowing equipment caters to a very narrow audience because it relies on the user having significant upper body strength. We’ve developed new technology that is inclusive of individuals with a wider range of physical disabilities,” said Masters, a mechanical engineering major.

The technology features a propulsion system, an adaptive seat, and a leg motion seat synchronizing system. The team has also developed a plan for safety and boat accessibility. The three systems are designed to fit in the shell of a standard crew boat, enabling individuals to use them in the boat of their choosing.

In recognition of their work, Masters, Imm and Wessel were invited to the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference to be held from March 21-23 at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Bryant, who graduated from UD on Jan. 12, is now an alumus.

Founded by former President Bill Clinton in 2007, CGI U brings together the next generation of global leaders from 30 universities and colleges to solve global challenges in education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health. 

While at the conference, Masters and her teammates will have the opportunity to share their ideas and network with nearly 1,200 students from around the globe. They will also attend CGI U workshops and skill sessions, which they hope will help them turn their academic project into a commercially viable technology. 

“We hope that working with others at CGI U and attending these learning sessions will help us create an action plan for commercializing our device,” Masters said. The team is already working with UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP) to patent their design.

Future plans for the project include further testing with a wide range of individuals with disabilities and pursuing a licensing deal with a major rowing company. 

“I’m incredibly proud of what my team and I are doing and it’s very humbling to be recognized by the Clinton Foundation for all our hard work,” Masters said. 

QuadCrew successfully tested its design on the Wilmington waterfront in December 2013 alongside the UD women’s rowing team.

They plan to represent the University at the 2014 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Bioengineering Division Undergraduate Student Competition at the 7th World Congress of Biomechanics in July.

The project was made possible through partnership with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Program, UD’s Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research, OEIP, the UD rowing team and Yes U Can, a Newark based non-profit organization devoted to helping those with limited mobility lead active lives.

In addition, Masters received an Alumni Enrichment Award from the UD Alumni Association to cover travel and lodging expenses for the duration of the conference. Imm and Wessel also received funding from the OEIP to cover expenses during the conference. 

Article by Collette L. O’Neal

Video by Kyle Chappell

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